On Sept. 9, 1988, my family was changed forever because of the man I married. That night, which started out with a serene sunset sail off the spectacular coast of Honolulu, later ended in a domestic violence bloodbath in my parent’s Oahu home.
Unknown to my Dad and I, while we had been sailing with church friends, my estranged husband had secretly broken into the home where I was staying with my baby. I arrived home first that night. No one else was home. Dad, who had stopped at the store, was traveling in his own car. David was lying quietly in ambush. As I entered the door, he viciously attacked me. He began beating me over and over with his fists. As he did this, he described in horrifying detail how he planned to kill my father, a prominent Presbyterian pastor.
David forcibly subdued me near a window and maintained a lookout for Dad. With a knife shoved into the flesh of my neck, I was forced to wait. Time stood still – I was powerless to do anything but pray. When Dad opened the door, chaos erupted. In the ensuing struggle, Dad was slashed in the face and I was stabbed in the abdomen.
I don’t think about that night much anymore. But when I do, I am left to wonder at the miracle of our survival. In an era when life seems almost cheap- when a person can suddenly and inexplicably be snuffed out by a bullet, a suicide bomber, an earthquake – here we are, still healthy and whole. Considering the grievous nature of our wounds and our assailant’s deadly intentions, it’s amazing. Some have said its actually amazing grace.
Grace. Although I have always found comfort in the Christian concept of God’s unfailing grace, I have never really known quite what to make of it. Do I believe in a God that loves us although we don’t deserve it? Yes, absolutely. A God that saves, that rescues, that “delivers us from evil”? Well, yes. But then here’s the hard part. How do I reconcile that belief with the additionally well-accepted notion that I often hear uttered in Christian conversation after a calamity, “There but for the Grace of God go I”? I struggle with that statement, which was apparently first uttered by the 16th century Christian, John Bradford, as he witnessed the execution of a group of men. He survived that day, but then was later martyred. So does this mean that God’s grace was not with him when he did die? Hmm. That conclusion certainly doesn’t fit well with my sense of a loving God.
Certainly, I have pondered, there were on that day many persons much holier, way more deserving than me, who did die tragically that day. Did they not have God’s grace? Surely they did. But trying to figure out all this grace business can give a non-theologian like myself a bit of a migraine.
Since 1988, no October has been the same for me. It is then when as I join with others across the country to observe Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Survivors, bereaved families, victim advocates and concerned citizens carry out numerous public awareness campaigns and gather to light candles in memory of those who, unlike Dad & me, didn’t survive. This year again, I lit a candle. I grieved with those who have lost their mothers, their daughters, their sisters, their friends. With a twinge of guilt, I whispered a prayer of gratitude. I wondered at the fact that we not only survived, but that we thrived. Because of our experience, we have been blessed to learn and share and even teach other’s around the country about the sin of domestic violence and the Biblical mutuality intended in Christian marriage.
As I raised my candle and recommited to waging peace for women, I briefly found myself thinking of that old familiar hymn, “Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come; ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” And once again, the notion of God’s unfailing grace both comforted and confounded me.
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